This will ensure you are going to have what you need whether it be a holiday party or a dinner with the relatives. You can begin by asking the host if you can bring something. You may not even have to mention that you have a disorder. For Thanksgiving I prepared all my meals for every day we were gone ahead of time. I packed them in a cooler and warmed it up as needed. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to eat two things at the dinner table–so I didn’t have to dive into my prepared stash. However, it was there if I needed it. Most of my immediate family know I have a limited diet and are gracious to ask what I need. Right now, I’m eating meat and pureed veggies. It’s limited. Very limited. And I’m not interested in having any setbacks because I am starting to feel better. So rather than risk it, I prep all my food before I leave, which really isn’t that much different than what I do at home on a regular basis—I just had to do it for a few extra days.
Eat Before You Go
This is tip is especially crucial for holiday parties where you know the majority of the food is going to be cookies and treats and food that is just going to make you sick if you take the temptation. Eat right before you go and when you get there the temptation will be much less. When I get to parties like these, I always look for something to drink. With a drink in hand you will look like anyone else at the party. And if someone asks—you just had ate so you aren’t hungry.
Offer to Host
This is insurance. Insurance that you will have something to eat without having to travel with a cooler. It is especially helpful for dinner parties. It will give you the most control over not only what is offered, but also cross-contamination issues, especially for those of us who are on a gluten-free diet. I usually make a combination of foods that are regularly offered and dishes that are completely safe for me. If it’s not too costly, I will make the whole meal safe for me. I like this tip because I am more relaxed knowing I can eat and be okay the rest of the evening. As a result I enjoy the party more.
Focus on What You Can Eat
This was very difficult for me at first. All I could see was the enormous amount of food that I could not eat. How unfair! I just want to be “normal” and eat what everyone else can eat. I hated it, the world, and my stupid stomach which couldn’t digest these foods. After I got over the unfairness of it all, I started doing tips #1-3. However, you will inevitably end up at some party or occasion where you are starving and the only thing you can eat is fruit. My advice is to savor it like it’s the best fruit you’ve had and you were craving it all day. Tell your brain it’s what you want and you will feel much less grouchy and be able to enjoy socializing with others. You can always eat more food when you get home.
Occasionally, you will find yourself going to a party where you will be fed and you have not had the opportunity to follow tip #1 or #2. During such occasions I have done one of two things. First, stay and find a beverage you can drink to at least put something in your stomach until you can get home and get to safe food. Secondly, stay for an hour or so and politely thank your host and leave early. I have done both and it largely depends on how I am feeling that particular day. Sometimes I don’t mind being hungry and can mentally push through it to enjoy the company of friends and family. Other days I can’t even imagine trying to carry on a conversation without the opportunity to feed myself first.
Think Like a Girl Scout
Always be prepared! It is helpful to keep granola bars, dried fruit, nuts or grab-n-go foods tucked away in your car or purse for emergencies like these. That way if you are going somewhere and the menu is unknown you can eat something on your way or throw it in your purse to devour later in the evening. I once ate several granola bars between a wedding and reception only to arrive and find I could eat almost everything. I was so bummed!
My success at this varies, but I will say I have gotten better at it the longer I’ve had my digestive issues. Don’t get me wrong, there are still times I want to weep in unfairness. In fact, I recently went to a favorite restaurant with a bunch of family members who were visiting from out of town. I did #2 above so I was okay to go and felt fine about it….until dessert. I have a favorite dessert at this restaurant (and just about any other restaurant I went to pre-digestive disorder). My mouth could water at the mention of it. Every single person at my table had some of this dessert and I did my best to not even look at it, but one family member not realizing how I was working so hard on trying to ignore said dessert started moaning and saying how good it was. I was actually glad she was enjoying it, but then she went on and on and EVERY. SINGLE. BITE she moaned and grunted and kept saying it was sooooo good. It was painful. I gotta tell ya I nearly lost it. I was seconds away from excusing myself to the bathroom so I wouldn’t have to endure the torture of it all. Did she have any idea that I was in such turmoil? No. And ultimately, that is what kept me at the table. If she knew she was causing me such anguish I am certain she would have apologized profusely and felt bad about it. So I asked myself, why should SHE feel bad that my stomach is a giant mess? One of us feeling bad is enough. So I endured the few minutes (that felt like an hour) and in no time at all she was finished. I will say, I was grateful she didn’t go back for seconds! So when you are feeling tempted, sad or even angry that you can’t eat what everyone else is eating—take a moment and step back. Acknowledge how you feel. It’s okay to feel angry/sad/tempted/or in my case utter anguish. Take a moment and step back and ask yourself if it’s worth it. If you ate it would it still be worth it in 2 hours? In 2 days? What about your journey to be healthy and well? Only you can answer that.
What tips do you have for navigating the holiday parties?